Do You Want To Be A Great Lifter Or Not?

I was recently listening to a podcast featuring Coach Glenn Pendlay.

Of all the coaches I’ve never actually had the pleasure to meet, Pendlay holds the distinction of being the one who has influenced me more than any other.

His resume is too extensive to recap completely but Glenn, who was a remarkably strong lifter himself (he’s snatched 170kg/373lbs and had a strict shoulder press PR of 180kg or nearly 400lbs – if you want a sense of  how incredible that is, load a barbell with 80kgs and try pressing it over your head and you’ll get the picture) is best known for coaching many of the best weightlifters in the US over the past two decades. Perhaps most importantly he was the first to expose the sport to many of today’s top athletes and enthusiasts through his work with California Strength and Muscle Driver USA. If you’ve been down to our gym you’ll notice his name on all of the barbells, racks and bumper plates we use.

Back to the podcast.

The two young hosts were asking Pendlay what he thought about following programs to the letter or staying at submaximal weights for fear of missing too many lifts. And while Pendlay supported the idea of not doing anything stupid, what he said next really resonated with me.

“Well,” he said, inserting a long pause, “do you want to be a great lifter or not?”

He then went on to explain that if you constantly play it safe, if you never go for it, if you always do what you know you can do, you’ll never end up knowing what you can do.

I think the reason that I’ve always been drawn to Pendlay is that he’s been around long enough to know that the direct answer is usually the correct one and he’s old enough to not give a shit if people disagree with that philosophy.

In other words, a great and confident coach knows to keep things simple.

So, in that spirit, I’m going to simplify Coach Pendlay’s words even further:

You have to try.

Seems obvious, right? But so many people fail to do so. They don’t try.

We live in an age where you don’t have to give much effort. That things are easily searched and discovered and extrapolated without too much experimenting or digging around or going to great lengths to find the answers. Nope. Those answers can be found in a nanosecond just by punching a few keys.

Hell, we are guilty of it ourselves. We hand our clients really well thought out programs, walk them through their warm ups, figure out their percentages, even help them load their bars and write their weights on the board so they don’t have to remember them for next time. We give them apps and schedulers and nice equipment.

The only responsibility that is truly their own is their effort. That they try.

Even when the weights get scary or the risk feels big or you are completely out of breath and feel you have nothing left to give. You cannot play it safe. You must move forward. You must fail or succeed and gasp and then load another kilo or add another meter and try again.

You must. You must.

Do you want to be a great lifter or not?

Coach Pendlay passed away earlier this morning. He lost a short battle with a very aggressive cancer. He was 48 years old.

And even though I never got to meet him, I miss him already.